Weekends Are for You

Yesterday, I got an email from my boss asking me to take care of some specific things as soon as I got into the office in the morning. I emailed him back: “Sure thing!”

A few minutes later, I got another email: “Why did you reply to my email?”

I was genuinely confused. First, because I’m polite, I try to reply to every email.1 Second, perhaps more importantly, because I always reply to a boss’s request, just to confirm I got it. I want him to know I’ll take care of it.

After all, my main job is to take stuff off his mind. He shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the conference room is stocked with pens and notepads, or if the writer’s assistant ran off copies of the correct revision. (Not the most recent revision, for reasons that are beyond me, but again, that’s not my job.)

Was I somehow adding to his mental workload by replying? Would he prefer to assume that all is well and understood, if I don’t actually reply? That seems dangerous, to say the least.

Before I figured out how to formulate a response, or even if I should respond, he sent me another email: “I don’t pay you enough to work on the weekend. I just wanted that checklist to be in your inbox Monday morning. You shouldn’t be checking your email on a Sunday. Weekends are for you.”

That’s… actually pretty cool.

In the era of 24/7 communication, a lot of bosses expect you to be on call 24/7, even though they’re not paying you 24/7. And as a dutiful assistant, I try to meet my boss’s expectations, no matter how high or unreasonable.

It’s really easy for someone to take advantage of a situation like that. I can definitely understand the temptation, even if I don’t much appreciate it.

So the fact that my boss won’t take advantage is rather remarkable. It’s unlikely that your boss is quite so remarkable, but you should at least consider what your boundaries are. Are you absolutely off the job when you clock out? Are you checking emails for emergencies? Or are you turning off your phone entirely?

Cutting yourself off might be the healthy choice, but your boss might not appreciate it. You’ll have to weight the pros and cons for yourself, based on your (and your boss’s) situation.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. I don’t always succeed, but I do try.
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  1. This is something that I struggle with and have had unenjoyable conversations with my boss about. I’m hired on technically as a contract employee as a video editor for a production company but my boss thinks that he owns my soul despite the fact that I’ve never signed any sort of contract stating that I cannot work for anyone else. My boss already demands that I work from 8-6, M-F. I am not getting paid enough with my hourly wage to pay all of my bills, I don’t receive any benefits, and honestly the environment that I work in is not great for my mental health and i simply do not enjoy it anymore. I have started working on an independent film and do other freelance work on the side to make up for my low income and when my boss found out he minorly freaked out on me and said that if I’m going to work on the weekends then I should be working for him. But I’m already working over 40 hour weeks and don’t get paid overtime. He’s added so much stress into my life since I have started working full time and I honestly do not know quite how to handle it, because I legitimately have no downtime now because he insists I work in office on the weekends and after my extended hours during the week I have to finish up the freelance work I have already committed to. Therefore, I am truly envious of your situation with your boss and I hope to one day be able to work for someone like that. I’m a very passive person and am unsure of how to set such boundaries in conversation with my boss because he turns to the offensive very quickly and I am not someone who handles disappointing people easily. Do you have any advice as to how to go about either setting those boundaries or mustering up the strength to just quit?

    • S.A. – If a boss is making strict demands on you and assigning working hours mon-fri and paying by the hour, if your work is integral to the company’s operations, and if they are assigning tasks (not projects with a fixed price that you bill), then they should be paying as an employee not a contract worker. In California, that would violate state labor laws. Don’t get me wrong – It happens ALL the time here. But a lot of people just don’t know the rules and let it happen. Bottom line: it’s cheaper for companies to hire contract workers instead of employees (they don’t have to pay unemployment insurance, SS, much more). It might be in your interest to take a look at your state labor laws (Here is the site for California if that is where you are located https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_independentcontractor.htm) and arm yourself with information. That way you can address his irrational arguments with stone cold facts. I am in a monstrous employment situation as well that involved something of a similar nature but I was at least able to set those boundaries in terms of nights and weekends. Just say no – in polite and professional manner. “Sorry but I do not work weekends” or “I will address this first thing Monday!”. Or better yet, don’t check your email except when you are on the clock and billing for that time. Your boss does not own you. He is taking advantage of you and you need to put your foot down. It is easier said than done, but you can do it!

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